The NHL season is already in full-swing, so while it may be a bit late to jump on the "predictions" train, there's still plenty of unknowns that will drastically affect how the rest of the year will play out, and ultimately affect the final outcome of the standings in both conferences.
We've seen teams get off to surprisingly hot starts (the New York Islanders) and others struggle off the starting blocks (the Colorado Avalanche). We've seen perennial juggernauts assert their dominance (the Anaheim Ducks) and we've seen other elite teams slip and slide their way to the middle of the pack (Boston Bruins), leaving their fans anxiously hoping they will find a way to turn things around sooner rather than later.
Predictions are always a crapshoot - the games are not played on paper, they are played out on the ice, where what should happen usually takes a backseat to what no one expected would happen. One cannot take into account off years, breakout performances or simply unexplainable outcomes that leave even the most respected of pundits scratching their heads years later.
These predictions would not differ much even if they had been done two weeks ago, and while there is no doubt that having a 10-game base to ponder upon helps, the future remains murky. Can the Nashville Predators continue to compete in the vaunted Western conference? Is Ottawa's goaltending enough to keep them afloat in the strong Atlantic Division? Will a team like Calgary or Columbus go on a tear and shock the hockey world by earning a playoff birth?
Those questions will take months to answer, but if one thing is for certain, its that nothing ever goes the way it should. Some teams will play over their heads and find a way to squeeze into a wild card position, while others will fall flat on their faces and miss out on the postseason dance for Lord Stanley's Holy Grail.
18 Eastern Conference
17 Atlantic Division: 1. Montreal Canadiens
16 Atlantic Division: 2. Boston Bruins
15 Atlantic Division: 3. Tampa Bay Lightning
14 Metropolitan Division: 1. Pittsburgh Penguins
13 Metropolitan Division: 2. New York Rangers
12 Metropolitan Division: 3. New York Islanders
11 Wild Card: 1. Detroit Red Wings
10 Wild Card: 2. Washington Capitals
9 Western Conference
8 Central Division: 1. Chicago Blackhawks
7 Central Division: 2. St. Louis Blues
6 Central Division: 3. Dallas Stars
5 Pacific Division: 1. Los Angeles Kings
4 Pacific Division: 2. Anaheim Ducks
3 Pacific Division: 3. San Jose Sharks
2 Wild Card: 1. Minnesota Wild
1 Wild Card: 2. Nashville Predators
After a disappointing season, the Predators look to be back to where they were a few seasons ago - with a lot more offensive punch. Pekka Rinne is back and will be the key to any success the Preds have, but the additions of Mike Ribiero, Derek Roy, and most importantly, James Neal, mean the Preds will finally be able to rely on true offensive threats as opposed to hoping to squeak out 1-0 or 2-1 results. Shea Weber and Roman Josi are minute-eating machines and will anchor the Preds back-end as well as they always have.
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